Representational Realism in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Changing Visual Cultures in Mughal India and Safavid Iran, 1580-1750

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Representational Realism in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Changing Visual Cultures in Mughal India and Safavid Iran, 1580-1750

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Title: Representational Realism in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Changing Visual Cultures in Mughal India and Safavid Iran, 1580-1750
Author: Botchkareva, Anastassiia Alexandra
Citation: Botchkareva, Anastassiia Alexandra. 2014. Representational Realism in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Changing Visual Cultures in Mughal India and Safavid Iran, 1580-1750. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The concept of realism in visual representation has been defined and deployed largely within the domain of the Western artistic canon. In the field of art history, the term is often used in ways that depend on implicit, culturally coded assumptions about its connection with the formal markers of optical-naturalism. The Persianate tradition of pictorial representation by contrast, has been traditionally characterized in modern scholarship as stylized and decorative, with little acknowledgment of an interest in realism in its own visual language. Furthermore, normative Euro-centric attitudes have perpetuated the assumption that an engagement with realism entered Persianate artistic practices with the advent of Europeanizing modes of depiction in Safavid and Mughal spheres of production around the late sixteenth-century. This dissertation explores the topic of realism from the perspective of Persianate visual culture. In so doing, it proposes to refine our understanding of the concept in terms that accommodate the varied artistic production of cultures that laid claims to cultivating representational realism in their own primary sources.
The first chapter draws on multi-disciplinary discussions to challenge art historical treatments of pictorial realism as a style, in favor of a functional definition of the concept as an emergent quality rooted in formal strategies that activate particular patterns of mirror-response in their audiences.
The second and third chapters reject the principle of evaluating the realism of Persianate representations according to their degree of proximity to European models. The second chapter discusses the structural conditions of change in visual habitus in cases of inter-cultural encounter between foreign modes of representation and the resulting works of aesthetic hybridity. The third chapter presents material evidence of early modern Safavid and Mughal albums as discourses of aesthetic heterogeneity.
The fourth chapter explores the local Persianate roots of realism, including the changes these realism strategies underwent in the early modern period. The fifth and final chapter develops case studies of two seventeenth-century Mughal and Safavid drawings, which cultivate representational enlivenment in depicting harrowing moments of death. The discussion delves in greater detail into the particular patterns of realism developed in the seventeenth-century Persianate visual culture.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13070051
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